If it’s not even 11 a.m. and you are already cursing a lousy start to a new week on your new fitness plan, we can identify. It’s not unusual to spend Sunday in a fully inspired self-care day of renewal, meal prep, journaling and dreaming about the success you will have come Monday in a renewed passionate pursuit of your health and fitness goals. We have been there, and that refreshed mojo feels good. And then the alarm hits on Monday, and you hit snooze somehow and don’t have time to do your new morning routine but plan to fit it in later. And since you didn’t eat breakfast, that maple scone probably won’t hurt if you skip dessert tonight and … the further the day progresses, the more obvious it is that an inner game of self-sabotage is in full effect.
And it’s not just you. According to award-winning clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Judy Ho, Ph.D., this is a universal challenge that hits everyone—even the most successful have-it-all-together people day in and day out get in their way, often without realizing it. We can all relate to times when we did (or didn’t do) something that ultimately undermined our best interests and intentions. It happens, but when it does, there are ways to make sure that it doesn’t derail you or your dreams completely—especially if you know it is coming, plan for it and meet reality head-on.
Ho is the co-host of CBS’s show “Face the Truth” with and a co-host of “The Doctors.” She is also a triple board-certified clinical and forensic neuropsychologist with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and extensive experience working with clients of all ages struggling with a variety of challenges.
What is self-sabotage?
“Self-sabotage shows up as thoughts and behaviors that undermine our best interests and conscious intentions—and it comes at a cost,” Ho says. “Over time, when not addressed, self-sabotage depletes our motivation and drive. When we fail time and again to achieve our goals but can’t identify why, we become frustrated, defeated and stop trying.”
Luckily, there is a way out, and we can all can take action to reverse these behaviors before they take a toll on our life. In her new book “Stop Self-Sabotage” (Harper Wave 2019), Ho offers six steps to unlock your true motivation, harness your willpower and get out of your own way. Combining therapeutically proven strategies with practical tools and self-assessments, Ho shares science-proven ways to stop the cycle of self-sabotage, clear a path to lasting happiness and start living your best life.
Through her research and her clinical practice, she finds that the key to ending any unproductive behavior is to ask two crucial questions. Why do we do it? How do we stop?
Why do we do it?
Watch Ho explain more on a recent episode of “The Doctors.”
Four life factors lead to self-sabotage.
Low self-concept: Low self-esteem that needs a lift can negatively impact your goals.
Internalized beliefs: Past beliefs you learned as a child can carry into adulthood and influence current behavior.
Fear of change/unknown: Fear is a biggie and, unfortunately, a common obstacle that can negatively impact goal setting and achievement.
Excessive need for control: Perfectionism or trying to control every detail and outcome puts a drag on healthy experimentation and growth opportunities.
How do we stop it?
To flip the self-sabotage switch to off, Ho says we need to remember that we can deactivate our self-sabotage triggers by starting with the realization that all thoughts are not created equal. Some ideas empower us and move us forward, while others can send us reeling into self-sabotage full-on panic territory. What to do when this happens? Ho says one of the first steps to get back on solid and positive ground is to question the validity of the thought by merely treating it as a mental event rather than a depiction of what is real and authentic. Remember that our thoughts do not necessarily equal the truth—in other words, we shouldn’t believe everything we say to ourselves. Instead, it is wise to slow down, take a deep breath and question if the thought is real or has any validity worth considering.
To help you bust through those false thoughts in your head, here is one of Ho’s go-to exercises that can work for nearly everyone in most situations. (She offers many more in her new book.)
What to do? Call somebody
Pick up the phone and call a friend. We tend to treat others better than ourselves, and sometimes we need someone to listen and set us lovingly back on the straight and narrow and remind of what we value and what we wish to achieve. Admittedly, this takes guts. Still, it is worth it—or it is equally valid to do this as an imaginary exercise—and imagine a compassionate conversation with your friend and how that makes you feel. Then take that friend’s advice and get moving back toward your values and goals. Self-sabotage, officially thwarted!
Stay tuned for more stories with Ho as we dive deeper into the six steps and explore triggers that keep us from achieving health and fitness goals. It is possible to modify thoughts and behaviors, find true motivation, and unlock willpower in order to stop the fierce and unyielding cycle of self-sabotage. In the meantime, check out her new book “Stop Self-Sabotage: Six Steps to Unlock Your True Motivation, Harness Your Willpower, and Get Out of Your Own Way.”
Photo credit: Cinema Tigers, Stocksy; Dr. Judy Ho